With 49 million arrivals and 198 million overnight stays in Italy across summer 2022, the return of tourists on a grand-scale has characterized the season in a positive sign for the sector (as revealed by the Centro Studi Turistici of Florence for Assoturismo Confesercenti). With growth equal to +15.5% over 2021, it’s heartening to hear that Florence is topping the polls, having been voted the best city in Europe according to the prestigious Travel + Leisure Magazine. Here, tour operators in the sector share their thoughts.
The season that’s about to come to an end has been full of challenges while at the same time has been one of the most stimulating for us operators. The sector is changing profoundly and all those involved along with it. We are getting used to being more responsive, working with increasingly demanding customers, and exploring new areas of business since pre-pandemic. To be successful in this, we must focus on training, creating specialized professionals for our sector. This is key in building a solid image for our brands: offering quality to our customers. Despite the difficulties experienced over the last two years, we have never stopped investing in the future and now that the restart has finally taken place, we look towards the next season stronger and more aware than before.
Caf Tour & Travel, Guido Barocchi
The strong desire to travel again and the beauty of our city and country have certainly played an essential role in the resumption of work for specialized tour operators like us. Despite the pandemic, we have maintained contact with customers (mostly Americans), by listening to and anticipating their wishes. Therefore, we were ready with new ideas, new proposals, and a strong response when this long-awaited restart came about. We understand that the luxury customers we cater to seek the guarantee that comes from our experience and reliability. We have learned to respond by offering authentic experiences in charming historic places with particular attention to the desires and requests of customers who look to experience something out of the ordinary. We will continue to maintain the very high level of professionalism offered to an increasingly demanding clientele in order to guarantee Florence, and our country, the cultural respect it has earned globally.
Exclusive Connection, Lucia Montuschi
The current season finally marks the long-awaited “restart”. Tourists from the USA, the main market, have returned to fill hotels, museums, tours and the streets of Florence. However, it was an atypical season that presented both problems and questions for the future. On the one hand, the entire hospitality sector has suffered from the limitations linked to internal organization and the shortage of qualified personnel, both due to professional relocation over the two years of the pandemic and the unwillingness to work in a sector that requires many sacrifices during the season. I believe that this problem can only be solved with greater attention to human resources: career paths, training, economic and welfare incentives to compensate for the efforts required in an undoubtedly demanding sector. The paradigm of the “summer job in tourism” must leave space for well-paid and motivated professionals towards a career in tourism.
On the other hand, uncertainty remains: will it continue at these levels or was it a “rebound effect”? We have no answer as of yet, but if we wanted to try to predict 2023, we could not ignore some elements that impacted the market this year: the particularly favourable dollar/euro exchange rate; the partial closure or riskiness of some destinations such as China or India that narrowed the range of travel choices, and last but not least, the bookings related to COVID vouchers issued in 2020 which increased demand. What’s certain is that Florence is increasingly sought after by international travellers, and will always be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
To Italy Group, Luca Perfetto
The past season confirms the recovery of the tourism sector, and although it’s still far from the levels reached in pre-pandemic years, our tourist destination has regained competitiveness in national and international tourism. International visitors increased, mainly thanks to the German, French and Spanish markets, as well as the return of the US market. The Italian component has also noted a positive trend at a time when local tourism has become a new way of understanding tourism, in fact, many Italians continue to opt for this choice. Expectations for the recent summer season exceeded forecasts from the beginning of the year; presences in April marked a steady recovery which was then confirmed in the following four months. These satisfying numbers not only indicate that the desire to travel has returned, but also that in this new travel context, cities of art such as Florence are certainly among the major destinations chosen by travellers. The increasing tourist flows are heartening and suggest a return to pre-covid numbers as early as 2024. However, to recover the lost ground and become even more attractive it’s necessary to think of an increasingly experiential tourism, where places are not only to be visited but to be experienced. The countless curiosities and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in Florence give both national and international visitors something out-of-the-ordinary. To improve the quality of tourism, we need to increase the average stay of visitors in the Florentine area, favour the seasonal adjustment of tourist flows, and promote sustainable tourism that’s attentive to our territory’s rich artistic-cultural heritage. A key role is certainly played by the Information and Tourist Reception Offices of the Municipality of Florence where the front desk operators reveal the territory’s history, art, culture, landscape and food and wine offering, embracing a much broader concept of hospitality that extends to the entire territory. Tourist offices are the places where every “citizen of the world” encounters the real destination for the first time and where the sense of welcome represents the destination.
The Plus Planet
With the season having gone well and having presented interesting numbers, the hope is that there will continue to be an increase. We are noticing that the type of client is different than pre-pandemic. With a large portion of the demographic represented by those in retirement, we are noticing that tourists are increasingly using their mobile phones and are very digital. They seek professional touristic services and a new type of tourism. We have always believed in the potential of digital tourism, and this is most certainly going to be a type of tourism that uses technology a lot.
Slow Tour, Annalisa Menconi
The tourism sector has a new optimism and the professionalism of agencies and tour operators has proved essential for those who left this summer to experience travel without worries. Undoubtedly, we are faced with something new. Tour operators are attentive to these changes and we are flexible. The first opportunity is for travelers: finally we can start again and a booking boom is taking place.
Agencies that have had the opportunity to continue their work can now meet the new travel demand and also look at their profession in a different way, with new tools explored through a new light. Our mission is to rebuild the market and interpret its changes in order to promote new travel experiences and realize people’s travel dreams. The summer also presented challenges, in the form of the ongoing conflict, the increased expense of energy that has affected many flights, and above all the effects following the two years of closure that have created gaps in many tourist facilities. For us tour operators, it’s essential to take these factors into account when planning an itinerary or a destination, providing tourists with the security that they will find everything they need. Now that we are officially in the fall, we are looking towards a future that we would never have imagined before. We are developing new travel experiences and reconstructing travel in a better way. What really happened this summer is that we started dreaming again.
Giancarlo de Leo, BAIANA Tour Operator
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DF Magazine is a magazine aimed at promoting Florence as a quality destination by Destination Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau.